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Everything You Need to Know About the HCA Practicum

Medical Professional explaing results to patient

A career in healthcare administration (HCA) offers the chance to innovate, spearhead change and improve the lives of the people at the forefront of the fight against chronic, infectious and potentially fatal diseases.

However, entering the world of healthcare can feel overwhelming. That’s why at SNU, we offer a healthcare clinical practicum within our healthcare administration program that provides you with the real-world experience you need to thrive in this exciting career. If you’re new to the healthcare world, you might find yourself wondering: What is a practicum, and why does it need to be a part of my training? Here’s why this program is a key ingredient in the recipe for your career success:

Practicum Definition: What Is a Practicum? 

A practicum is a project-based learning opportunity that puts the skills you’re learning in school to good use. 

Careers in healthcare are growing faster than most other fields, and for good reason. The unprecedented changes in healthcare due to COVID-19, the need to replace retiring healthcare workers and the increase of roles in an expanding healthcare ecosystem require an influx of highly skilled workers. But it’s not enough to have the right degree. You must be prepared to get to work from day one. 

If you know enough about healthcare to pursue an HCA degree, you know it’s challenging work. The most successful healthcare workers tend to be those who understand that it is a difficult, demanding field with a high cost of error. A practicum prepares you for this reality, giving you the field experience you need to serve your community from day one. The benefits include: 

  • A better understanding of the inner workings of healthcare institutions.
  • Experience solving real problems. 
  • Deeper communication and collaboration skills. 
  • A reduction in anxiety, self-doubt and impostor syndrome. 
  • A resume highlight, giving you something to discuss in interviews and cover letters
  • The opportunity to discover new skills and additional interests. 
  • More career opportunities as you gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of an HCA career. 


Practicum vs. Internship: What’s the Difference? 

If you’re pursuing internships — or have already been lucky enough to earn one — you might wonder how a practicum fits into this plan and whether both are necessary. Both an internship and a practicum can advance your career, but they are two different undertakings. 

With an internship, you work in your chosen field for an organization or person outside of your school, often for academic credit. For instance, you might land an internship working as an office practice manager or shadowing a healthcare administrator at a local hospital. 

A practicum is integrated into your academic study. It also involves working in the field, but on a specific project. You will see the project through to completion, offering significant insight into the field. Here are some other differences between the two pursuits:

  • A practicum is project-based, whereas an internship usually lasts for a specific period. 
  • An internship may be paid, but a practicum is not. 
  • Practicums have an academic focus and are typically part of your academic work. Internships happen outside of school, though you may still get academic credit. 

SNU does not require internships, though we do encourage students to pursue internships because of the many career advantages they provide. 


How a Practicum Advances Your Career

A practicum is more than just another class. It’s your chance to put theory to work, testing what you’ve learned about the healthcare system in the real world. Through your practicum, you’ll learn: 

  • What healthcare administration is like, and the daily challenges you’re most likely to encounter. 
  • How healthcare collaboration works in the real world. 
  • The soft skills you’ll need to cultivate to thrive in a healthcare career. 

You will gain a valuable networking opportunity, make lasting connections and get a chance to continue assessing your skills. Many students emerge from the practicum with a clear idea of the specific roles they would like to pursue. 


What to Expect in Your HCA Practicum 

SNU’s HCA practicum is part of your coursework. During a five-week course, students gain about 60 hours of experience in their chosen field in return for three hours of academic credit. It’s an experience you can’t get in any other context. 

You will complete this project at the end of your degree. During the project, you pick the topic that interests you, then work to cultivate the experience you need. There’s a strong focus on healthcare as both a business and a service. Students learn how to manage the competing challenges of healthcare administration, such as delivering exceptional care, managing care providers with compassion and confidence, ensuring a quality consumer experience that improves lives and health and keeping the bottom line under control. 


Choosing the Right School for Your Practicum 

A practicum is more than just another item to check off your pre-graduation list. At SNU, it’s an integral part of career preparation. That’s why we integrate our practicum into the curriculum. 

If you’re hunting for the right school to pursue a degree in healthcare administration, you should know that finding the right fit is key. Some questions to ask about each school, as well as its practicum program, include: 

  • What does this school do to support adult learners? A practicum is a significant undertaking, so incorporating it into your coursework can reduce stress while ensuring you complete a rigorous curriculum that fully prepares you for the working world. 
  • Is the school regionally accredited? Accreditation ensures your transfer credits will go with you if you leave and that employers will take a degree from your chosen school seriously. 
  • Does the scheduling work? At SNU, you can complete your HCA degree in just 18 months with consecutive five-week courses. 
  • Who teaches the classes? Make sure your professors are innovators and leaders in the field. They are a source of professional networking and guidance, preparing you for the demands of an HCA career. 
  • What does the program cost, and what financial aid is available? SNU specializes in making school affordable, even if you’ve hit financial roadblocks at other institutions. 

Do you love the idea of making healthcare institutions better, smarter and stronger? Do you have creative ideas you think could improve and even save lives? Are you passionate about health but prefer to focus on people instead of clinical work? Then an HCA program could be perfect for you. 

Ready to get started? There’s no need to delay. With multiple start dates and a simplified application process, you can begin your SNU education as soon as you’re ready. Want to learn more? Check out our free guide, “What to Expect from an Online Degree Program.”


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